Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"Chicken Little" Illustration Process

I recently painted a scene from the "Chicken Little" story for an upcoming conference. Here's my process for the illustration.

Above is a composite, showing the three main stages: sketch, color study,
and final painting.
I start off by drawing the basic shapes with a blue pencil. I then go over the underdrawing with a soft lead pencil (see below). I can knock out the blue in Photoshop to clean up the drawing (cmd-U for Hue/Saturation, select Cyans and Blues, drag Lightness all the way over to the right). I print out my drawing at 100% final working size and use a light table to ink the drawing.


I find it helpful to do a color study. This one is about 9 by 7 inches (below).
Color study. Watercolor, ink, touches of pastel.
Below is the raw scan without color correction. The painting is about 13 by 10 inches. I didn't like the way Chicken Little turned out, so I painted a few more versions. I know I can always repaint areas and use Photoshop to combine the patched section. And sometimes I'll just start over and call the abandoned painting another "study."
Raw scan. Watercolor, ink, with touches of pastel and colored pencil.
Below are some alternate versions of Chicken Little. I find that I have more options in blending in the patched section if I paint in some background color. I don't want the patched section to look cut-out or have a white fringe around it.
I liked the middle one the best, so I dropped him into the final painting.
This is what my Layer Panel (below) looks like for the final piece. You can see Chicken Little is on his own Layer (labeled "Chicken"). I used Layer Masking to blend him in, then I made a composite Layer (cmd-option-shift-E) and used the Clone Stamp to blend him in more. Sometimes I do my Cloning on a Layer above the patched section. For more on how I adjust scan colors, please see this blog post, "Optimizing a Color Scan." The short version is that I select each color field (e.g. all the green grass), and then use a Color Balance Layer Adjustment. I do this for each major color while comparing it to the original painting.

Layer Panel.

And here's the final, optimized illustration with the new version of Chicken Little blended into the scene. I also use a Curves Adjustment Layer to increase the contrast (and better match the original painting).

The final, optimized illustration (with the replacement Chicken Little).